And Then There Were None
Cover of the first UK edition, featuring the original title
|Original title||And Then There Were None|
|Cover artist||Stephen Bellman|
|Publisher||Collins Crime Club|
|6 November 1939|
|Preceded by||The Regatta Mystery|
|Followed by||Sad Cypress|
And Then There Were None is a mystery novel by Agatha Christie, widely considered her masterpiece and described by her as the most difficult of her books to have written. It was first published in the United Kingdom by the Collins Crime Club on 6 November 1939 as Ten Little Niggers, after the British blackface song which serves as a major plot point. The title was changed to the last line of the rhyme – And Then There Were None – for the first American edition, which used the original American version of the song. That song title, Ten Little Indians, was used for some editions, until the Christie estate formally approved the US title of the work.
In the novel, ten people are enticed into coming to an island under different pretexts, e.g. offers of employment or to enjoy a late summer holiday, or to meet with old friends. All have been complicit in the death(s) of other human beings but either escaped justice or committed an act that was not subject to legal sanction. The guests are charged with their respective "crimes" by a gramophone recording after dinner the first night and informed that they have been brought to the island to pay for their actions. They are the only people on the island, and cannot escape due to the distance from the mainland and the inclement weather, yet gradually all ten are killed in turn, in a manner that seems to parallel the ten deaths in the nursery rhyme. Nobody else seems to be left alive on the island by the apparently last death. A confession in the form of a postscript to the novel, unveils how the killings took place and who was responsible.
It is Christie's best-selling novel with 100 million sales to date, making it the world's best-selling mystery ever, and one of the best-selling books of all time. (Publications International lists it as 7th best-selling.)
- 1 Plot summary
- 2 Characters
- 3 Publication and book title history
- 4 Literary significance and reception
- 5 Adaptations
- 6 Parodies, references and related works
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Eight people arrive on an isolated island off the Devonshire coast of England. Each appears to have an invitation tailored to his or her personal circumstances, such as an offer of employment or an unexpected late summer holiday. They are met by the island owners' butler and cook (who have never met their employer), making a total of ten people known to be on the island. While awaiting their hosts, they find a framed copy of the nursery rhyme "Ten Little Soldiers" ("Niggers" or "Indians" in respective earlier editions) hanging on the wall, and notice ten figurines on the dining room table, as well as discussing other oddities about the house and their visit. The butler plays a gramophone (or "phonograph") record while they are talking, as he had been instructed to do; unexpectedly the recording contains a voice that describes each visitor in turn and accuses each of having committed murder but evading justice, and asks if any of "the accused" wishes to give a defense. All are shocked and in the aftermath one of the guests (Anthony Marston) has a drink to help with the shock, however his drink contained potassium cyanide and he chokes and dies. Subsequently the guests notice one of the ten figurines is now broken, and the nursery rhyme appears to reflect the manner of death ("One choked his little self and then there were nine").
Ten little Indian Boys went out to dine;
Over the next two days, Mrs Rogers, the cook, dies from a lethal dose of chloral hydrate, a sleeping medication ("one overslept himself"), and then General MacArthur is found dead from a blow to the back of his skull, having predicted earlier to Vera Claythorne that none of them would leave the island alive ("one said he'd stay there"). In each case the death matches the rhyme and is accompanied by another broken figurine. Three of the men search the island but there seems nowhere on the bare rock for a stranger to hide, and the bad weather would not allow any boats to visit. They decide that one of the remaining visitors must be a mad killer. The next morning Thomas Rogers, the butler, is found dead in the woodshed, having been struck by an axe ("one chopped himself in halves"), and later that day the fifth death occurs when Emily Brent is killed by an injection of cyanide ("a bumblebee sting").
Justice Wargrave suggests they lock up any potential weapons, including Dr. Armstrong's medical equipment and his own sleeping pills. They use two locks, giving one key to soldier of fortune Philip Lombard and the other to ex-policeman William Blore. Lombard admits to bringing a revolver to the island and initially refuses to turn it over until the others force him to do so. When he goes to get it, he seems genuinely confounded that it is missing. To stay safe, they agree that only one person will leave the others at any given time. Ex-governess Vera Claythorne screams after her face brushes against seaweed which has been hung from a ceiling hook in her darkened room, causing the others to run upstairs to help. Once upstairs they realize Wargrave is not with them. He is found sitting dressed in judicial robes with the mark of a gunshot through the forehead ("one got into Chancery"). Armstrong confirms the death, and Lombard appears confounded when he discovers that his gun has now been returned to his room. That night, Blore hears someone sneaking out of the house and catches a glimpse of someone in the moonlight. Realizing Armstrong is missing, Blore, Vera and Lombard decide that he must be the killer. The next morning the three try to signal the mainland and remain in the relative safety of the beach. However Blore eventually goes to the house for food, and is later found under Vera's bedroom window, his skull crushed by a heavy bear-shaped clock ("a big bear hugged one"), and shortly afterwards, shocking Lombard and Vera, the corpse of Armstrong washes ashore — his absence now appears to have been designed to mislead everyone as to the identity of the true killer ("a red herring swallowed one").
Vera and Lombard, the last two survivors, both now believe each other to be the killer, shock and panic overcoming reason. She persuades Lombard to help her drag Armstrong's body away from the tideline, as a pretext to get hold of his gun, which she does. When Lombard makes a sudden move towards her, she fires, managing to shoot him through the heart, killing him instantly (an early version of the rhyme "Ten Little Injuns" contained the verse "One shot the other and then there was One"). She returns, relieved, to the house, which she notes does not "feel like an empty house", decides she is not hungry and ascends to her room. There, in a dreamlike disoriented state after shooting Lombard, she finds a hanging noose and chair arranged beneath it in her room. Feeling the presences of Cyril, the boy she allowed to drown, as well as that of her former lover, Hugo, she places the noose around her neck and kicks away the chair ("he went and hanged himself, and then there were none").
In an epilogue, the investigating police officer discusses the mystery with his Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard. There are no clues as to the owner, nor from any of the visitors' diaries (which broadly agree about the sequence of events on the island up to the final day on the deaths from Marston to Wargrave). However the situation they find apparently contradicts any theory they can suggest - Vera's fingerprints on Lombard's pistol and the clock that killed Blore coming from Vera's room point to Vera as "U.N. Owen" yet the chair Vera kicked away is found neatly set against the wall, Lombard's revolver was not found on or near his person, Armstrong's body has been dragged above where any tide could have taken it, it is inconceivable that Blore could or would have dropped the clock on himself, and the inclement weather combined with the distance from the mainland would have prevented anyone else from entering or exiting the island before the first boats arrived after the weekend-thus someone must have been alive after the deaths of Vera; Lombard, Armstrong and Blore. The novel proper ends with the investigators thoroughly confounded by the apparently impossible situation they must unravel.
Postscript by the killer
In a postscript, a fishing ship picks up a bottle (containing a written confession) inside its trawling nets, which explains the events, but has been left to chance whether it will be discovered. It is signed by Justice Wargrave, who states he has, since childhood, relished causing suffering, but in adulthood he determined that such pain be meted out only to the guilty. Having learned he was terminally ill with a relatively short time to live, he decided to commit murder himself, locating ten individuals who had knowingly or intentionally caused the death(s) of others but escaped earthly justice. He lured nine of them to the island he had purchased with the help of Isaac Morris, and pretended to be a tenth visitor like them. Experienced in observation, he confirmed all were guilty by their reactions to the phonograph recording. His tenth killer (and first chronological victim) was his sole go-between and contact, Morris, who had been responsible for the death of the daughter of Wargrave's friends from a drug overdose. Morris, a hypochondriac, constantly complained of maladies, both real and imagined. For this reason, he accepted a cocktail of medicines given to him by the judge, who promised they would cure his upsets, and which, of course, proved fatal.
Wargrave first killed those he considered less culpable, saving the "prolonged mental strain and fear" for the more cold-blooded perpetrators, slipping poisons into the drinks of Marston (whom he felt was amoral) and Mrs Rogers (who acted largely under the influence of her domineering husband). After bludgeoning General Macarthur and Rogers, the butler, the judge used the remaining chloral hydrate as a sedative in Miss Brent's coffee before injecting her with cyanide when she was left alone in the kitchen, using one of Dr Armstrong's hypodermics. He then played upon Armstrong, who trusted the judge, whom he persuaded to go along with a plan whereby the judge would fake being shot dead, but would, actually, remain alive and thus be able to investigate who was the "real killer". After Wargrave's "death" was "confirmed" by Armstrong, the judge met with his dupe secretly that night along the rocks overlooking the sea and pushed him to his death, at a location where the body would wash ashore with the tide. After dropping the clock on Blore, he correctly surmised that Vera and Lombard would turn on each other but that she would be more than a worthy opponent and manage to turn the tables on the latter. At which point he placed the noose and chair in her room as a "psychological experiment" – which, combined with her "hypnotic" posttraumatic state from shooting Lombard, he (again correctly) anticipated would lead her to hang herself.
After her death, Wargrave describes how he returned the chair back against the wall, and wrote his confession, admitting a "pitiful human need" for recognition, which he will throw into the sea in a bottle before shooting himself. He states that he will fasten a rubber cord to Lombard's gun, using a handkerchief to prevent leaving any of his own fingerprints. If this plan works as intended, the gun will recoil after firing the fatal shot through the forehead, leaving him exactly as described in the others' diaries, with the gun fallen far from his own hand. The cloth on the floor should "not attract any attention", he notes. He concludes that when the police arrive, "they will find ten dead bodies – and an unsolved mystery – on Soldier Island".
Wargrave points out three clues by which the police could perhaps identify him as the killer, but surmises correctly that the police will not figure them out:
- Wargrave was the only "innocent" guest, since the man he sentenced to death - despite strong public belief in his innocence - was found after his execution to have been unquestionably guilty of the crime for which he was hanged. Therefore paradoxically he had to be "the" murderer;
- The "red herring" line in the poem suggests that Armstrong was tricked into his death, and the elderly judge would have been the person most likely for Armstrong to trust;
- The gunshot wound on Wargrave's forehead would appear similar to the mark God placed upon Cain in the Bible as a sign after he killed his brother Abel.
The following details of the characters are based on the original novel. Backstories, backgrounds and names vary with differing international adaptations, based on the rules, censorship, cultural norms, etc.
- Anthony James Marston killed two young children (John and Lucy Combes) while driving recklessly, for which he felt no real remorse nor did he accept any personal responsibility, complaining only that his driving license had been suspended as a result. He was the first island victim, poisoned with potassium cyanide slipped into his drink while the guests were listening to the fateful gramophone recording.
- Mrs Ethel Rogers, the cook/housekeeper and Thomas Rogers' wife, described as pale and ghostlike woman with shifty light eyes. She was dominated by her bullying husband, who withheld the medicine of their former employer (an elderly spinster, Miss Jennifer Brady) to collect an inheritance they knew she had left them in her will. Mrs Rogers was haunted by the crime for the rest of her life, and was Owen's second victim, dying in her sleep peacefully from an overdose of chloral hydrate.
- General John Gordon Macarthur, a retired World War I war hero, who sent his late wife's lover (a younger officer, Arthur Richmond) to his death by assigning him to a mission where it was practically guaranteed he would not survive. Leslie Macarthur had mistakenly put the wrong letters in the envelopes on one occasion when she wrote to both men at the same time. The general fatalistically accepts that no one will leave the island alive, which he tells Vera Claythorne. Shortly thereafter, he is bludgeoned while sitting along the shore.
- Thomas Rogers, the butler and Ethel Rogers' husband. He dominated his weak-willed wife and they killed their former elderly employer by withholding her medicine, causing the woman to die from heart failure and inheriting the money she bequeathed them in her will. He was struck in the head with an axe as he cut firewood in the woodshed.
- Emily Caroline Brent, a rigid, repressed elderly spinster holding harsh moralistic principles. She accepted the vacation on Soldier Island largely due to financial constraints. Years earlier, she had dismissed her young maid, Beatrice Taylor, for becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Beatrice, who had already been rejected by her parents for the same reason, drowned herself in a river, which Miss Brent considered an even worse sin. She refuses to discuss the matter with the gentlemen, but later confides what happened to Vera Claythorne, who tells the others shortly before Miss Brent is found dead herself. Having been sedated with chloral hydrate in her coffee, leaving her disoriented, she was left alone in the kitchen and injected in the neck with potassium cyanide with one of Dr Armstrong's hypodermic syringes (the "bee sting"). Right before her own murder, due to the chloral hydrate she has ingested, she has a lurid daydream about Beatrice and imagines hearing the girl's footsteps (they are actually the footsteps of the murderer).
- Dr Edward George Armstrong, a Harley Street doctor, responsible for the death of a patient, Louisa Mary Clees, after he operated on her while drunk, many years earlier. Armstrong foolishly trusts Wargrave, and, while rendezvousing with the judge on a rocky cliff, is pushed into the sea and drowns. His body goes missing for a while, leading the others to believe he is the killer, but his corpse washes ashore expeditiously at the end of the novel, leading to the climax.
- William Henry Blore, a retired police inspector and now a private investigator, accused of falsifying his testimony in court for a bribe from a criminal gang too dangerous to double-cross, which resulted in an innocent man, James Landor, being convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Landor died in prison. Blore arrives using the alias "Davis" and claiming to have arrived from South Africa, as he was instructed to do by Isaac Morris, who hired him for "security" work, but is confronted about his true name which was revealed on the gramophone recording, and he acknowledges his true identity. He denies the accusation against him from the gramophone recording but later privately admits the truth to Lombard. His skull was crushed by a bear-shaped clock dropped from Vera's bedroom window onto the terrace below.
- Philip Lombard, a soldier of fortune. Literally down to his last square meal, he comes to the island with a loaded revolver, as suggested by Isaac Morris. Lombard is accused of causing the deaths of a number of East African tribesmen, after stealing their food and leaving them to starve. He, along with Marston, are the only guests to openly and immediately confirm that the accusations against them are true; neither feels remorse. Lombard fulfilled the ninth referenced verse of the rhyme, shot to death on the beach by Vera, who believed him to be the murderer.
- Vera Elizabeth Claythorne, a cool, efficient, resourceful former teacher and governess, who has taken mostly secretarial jobs since her last job as a governess ended in the death of her charge, Cyril Hamilton, whom she intentionally allowed to swim out to sea – as the child had wanted to do but had theretofore been denied as too dangerous – and drown. She did this so her lover, Cyril's uncle Hugo Hamilton, could become the family heir, inherit the estate and marry her, which had been their original plan before Cyril's birth changed things. She swam out to sea to "save" Cyril to make it seem he had disobeyed her – as she had consistently told him it was too dangerous – but knowing she would not arrive in time. Hugo, however, who loved his nephew, abandoned her after he somehow realised what she had done. After shooting Lombard in what she believed was self-defense, she returns to the house, relieved she has survived. When she goes to her room, she finds a readied noose, complete with chair beneath it, suspended from a hook hanging from the ceiling. In a post-traumatic state, she adjusts the noose round her neck and kicks the chair away, apparently fulfilling the rhyme's final verse ("One little Soldier Boy left all alone; He went out and hanged himself and then there were none").
- Justice Lawrence John Wargrave, a retired judge, known as a "hanging judge" for liberally awarding the death penalty in different murder cases, and is revealed at the end to be the killer on the island. Finding himself with only a short time to live, he creates a game in which, as island owner "U. N. Owen" (a homonym of "Unknown") he entices various murders who have escaped justice, to a secret location, in order to be a murderer himself, and to kill them in a way that would leave an almost-unsolvable murder mystery. In the story proper, he appears to be one of the ten visitors, and is accused in turn on the gramophone recording, of judicial murder as a result of giving biased summation and jury directions leading to a hanging which was widely believed at the time to be a deliberate miscarriage of justice on his part. Wargrave fakes his own death as the sixth murder on the island, with Armstrong's help, creating an enormous red herring that fools everyone, and then kills Armstrong once the doctor's verdict of his death is accepted by the other visitors. After Vera Claythorne's death, Wargrave rearranges some furniture in the house, writes his confession which he throws in the sea, and shoots himself in accordance with the others' diaries, using a rubber cord to throw the gun far from him, ensuring that his death will match their descriptions.
- Sir Thomas Legge and Inspector Maine, two detectives who discuss the case in the epilogue of the book, but are unable to solve the mystery.
- Isaac Morris, a lawyer hired by "Mr Owen" (Wargrave) to purchase the island on his behalf, and who is deceased before the story begins. He told the locals to ignore distress signals for a week. He also arranged for the financially desperate Lombard to come to the island armed, and to meet "Mr Owen" for a later payment of 100 guineas (105 GBP). Like the guests on the island, Morris is responsible for someone's death. Through his narcotics dealings, he caused the addiction and suicide of a young woman, who just happened to be the daughter of friends of Justice Wargrave. The detectives discuss the death of Morris, from an overdose of medication, as does Wargrave's confession. Manipulated by his hypochondria, and to help with his "gastric juices", Morris trusted "Mr Owen" sufficiently to accept the latter's lethal cocktail of pills, assured they would improve his health. Morris is actually the first victim chronologically, dying before Marston.
- Fred Narracott, the boatman who delivered the guests to the island. After doing so he does not appear again in the story, although Inspector Maine notes it was Narracott who, sensing something seriously amiss, returned to the island as soon as the weather allowed, before he was supposed to, and found the bodies.
Publication and book title history
The novel was originally published in 1939 and early 1940 almost simultaneously, in Great Britain and the United States. In Great Britain it was originally published under the title Ten Little Niggers, in book and newspaper serialised formats. The serialisation was in 23 parts in the Daily Express from Tuesday, 6 June to Saturday, 1 July 1939. All of the instalments carried an illustration by "Prescott" with the first instalment having an illustration of Burgh Island in Devon which inspired the setting of the story. The serialised version did not contain any chapter divisions. The book retailed for seven shillings and sixpence (£0.375 in the pre-decimal currency of that time).
In the United States it was published under the title And Then There Were None, again in both book and serial formats. Both of the original U.S. publications changed the title from that originally used in the UK, due to the extreme offensiveness of the word in U.S. culture, where it was more widely understood as a racially loaded insult compared to contemporary UK culture, and because of the pejorative connotations of the original blackface rhyme. The serialized version appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in seven parts from 20 May (Volume 211, Number 47) to 1 July 1939 (Volume 212, Number 1) with illustrations by Henry Raleigh, and the book was published in January 1940 by Dodd, Mead and Company for $2.00.
Publication and title: English language
In the original UK novel all references to "Indians" or "Soldiers" were originally "Nigger", including the island's name, the pivotal rhyme found by the visitors, and the ten figurines. The word "Nigger" was already racially offensive in the United States by the start of the 20th century, and therefore the book's first US edition and first serialization changed the title to And Then There Were None and removed all references to the word from the book, as did the 1945 motion picture.
The book and its adaptations have since been released under various new names since the original publication, including Ten Little Indians (1946 play, Broadway performance and 1964 paperback book) – this title was also later deemed offensive, in this case to Native Americans – Ten Little Soldiers, and the most widely used today, And Then There Were None.
UK editions continued to use the work's original title until the 1980s; the first UK edition to use the alternative title And Then There Were None appeared in 1985 with a reprint of the 1963 Fontana Paperback.
- English language editions and titles
- Christie, Agatha (November 1939). Ten Little Niggers. London: Collins Crime Club. OCLC 152375426. Hardback, 256 pp. (First edition)
- Christie, Agatha (January 1940). And Then There Were None. New York: Dodd, Mead. OCLC 1824276. Hardback, 264 pp. (First US edition)
- 1944, Pocket Books, 1944, Paperback, 173 pp (Pocket number 261)
- 1947, Pan Books, 1947, Paperback, 190 pp (Pan number 4)
- 1958, Penguin Books, 1958, Paperback, 201 pp (Penguin number 1256)
- Christie, Agatha (1963). And Then There Were None. London: Fontana. OCLC 12503435. Paperback, 190 pp. (The 1985 reprint was the first UK publication of novel under title And Then There Were None).
- Christie, Agatha (1964). Ten Little Indians. New York: Pocket Books. OCLC 29462459. (first publication of novel as Ten Little Indians)
- 1964, Washington Square Press (paperback – teacher's edition)
- Christie, Agatha (1977). Ten Little Niggers (Greenway edition ed.). London: Collins Crime Club. ISBN 0-00-231835-0. Collected works, Hardback, 252 pp (Except for reprints of the 1963 Fontana paperback, this was one of the last English-language publications of the novel under the title "Ten Little Niggers")
- Christie, Agatha (1980). The Mysterious Affair at Styles; Ten Little Niggers; Dumb Witness. Sydney: Lansdowne Press. ISBN 0-7018-1453-5. Late use of the original title in an Australian edition.
- Christie, Agatha; N J Robat (trans.) (1981). Ten Little Niggers (in Dutch) (Third edition ed.). Culemborg: Educaboek. ISBN 90-11-85153-6. (Late printing of Dutch translation preserving original English title)
- Christie, Agatha (1986). Ten Little Indians. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-55222-8. (Last publication of novel under the title "Ten Little Indians")
Publication and title: non-English languages
The original title (Ten Little Niggers) still survives in a few foreign-language versions of the novel, such as the Bulgarian title Десет малки негърчета, and was used in other languages for a time, for example in the Dutch publication until the 18th edition of 1994. The title Ten Little Negroes continues to be commonly used in foreign-language versions, for example in Spanish, Greek, Serbian, Romanian, French and Hungarian, as well as a 1987 Russian film adaptation Десять негритят (Desyat Negrityat). In 1999, the Slovak National Theatre showed the play under its original title but then changed the name to A napokon nezostal už nik (And Then There Were None) mid-run, while the Italian translation is titled Dieci piccoli indiani (Ten Little Indians).
- Non-English translations and titles
|Arabic||عشرة عبيد زغار||Ten Little Negros|
|Bengali||রইলো না আর কেও||And Then There Were None|
|Bosnian||Deset malih crnaca||Ten Little Negros|
|Bulgarian||Десет малки негърчета||Ten Little Negros|
|Basque||Eta ez zen alerik ere geratu||And Then There Were None|
|Catalan||Deu negrets||Ten Little Black Men|
|Chinese||無人生還 (Wú rén shēng huán)
一個都不留 (Yī gè dōu bù liú)
|No One Survived
And There Were None
|Croatian||Deset malih crnaca||Ten Little Negros|
|Czech||Deset malých černoušků||Ten Little Negros|
|Danish||En af os er morderen||One of Us is the Killer|
|Dutch||Tien kleine negertjes||Ten Little Negros|
|Estonian||Kümme väikest neegrit (1994 edition)
Ja ei jäänud teda ka (2008 edition)
|Ten Little Negros
And Then There Were None
|Finnish||Eikä yksikään pelastunut (1940, 2004)
Kymmenen pientä neekeripoikaa (1968)
|And none survived
Ten little negro boys
|French||Dix Petits Nègres||Ten Little Negros|
|Galician||Dez negriños||Ten Little Black Boys|
|German||Letztes Weekend (1944)
Zehn kleine Negerlein (1982)
Und dann gabs keines mehr (2003)
Ten Little Negros
And Then There Were None
|Greek||Δέκα Μικροί Νέγροι||Ten Little Negros|
|Hebrew||עשרה כושים קטנים||Ten Little Negros|
|Hungarian||Tíz kicsi néger||Ten Little Negros|
|Icelandic||Tíu litlir negrastrákar||Ten Little Negro boys|
|Indonesian||Sepuluh Anak Negro||Ten Little Negros|
|Italian||Dieci piccoli indiani||Ten Little Indians|
|Japanese||そして誰もいなくなった (Soshite dare mo i naku natta)||And Then There Were None|
|Korean||그리고 아무도 없었다 (Geurigo amudo eobs-eossda)||And Then There Were None|
|Latvian||Desmit mazi nēģerēni||Ten Little Negros|
|Malayalam||Oduvil Aarum Avasheshichilla||No One Survived in the End|
|Malaysian||Sepuluh Budak Hitam||Ten Black Boys|
|Norwegian||Ti små negerbarn||Ten Little Negro Children|
|Persian||ده بچه زنگی||Ten Negro Children|
|Polish||I nie było już nikogo||And Then There Were None|
|Portuguese (European)||Convite para a Morte
As Dez Figuras Negras
|Invitation to Death
Ten Black Figures
|Portuguese (Brazilian)||E Não Sobrou Nenhum
O Caso dos Dez Negrinhos
O Vingador Invisível
|And Then There Were None
The Case of the Ten Little Niggers
The Invisible Avenger
|Romanian||Zece negri mititei||Ten Little Negros|
|Russian||Десять негритят||Ten Little Negros|
|Serbian||Десет малих црнаца||Ten Little Negros|
|Spanish||Y no quedo ninguno
|And Then There Were None
Ten Little Black Men/Boys
|Swedish||Tio små negerpojkar (1940)
Och så var de bara en (2008)
|Ten little Negro Boys
And Then There Was Only One
|Tamil||Piragu angu oruvar kooda illai||And then there were none|
(Eng: Kat ta kum yok koh)
|Ten Little Indians|
|Turkish||"On Küçük Zenci"||Ten Little Negros|
|Ukrainian||"Десять негренят"||Ten Little Negros|
|Urdu||اور پھر کوئی بی نہیں رہا!||And Then There Were None|
|Vietnamese||Mười người da đen nhỏ||Ten Little Black People|
Literary significance and reception
And Then There Were None is one of Agatha Christie's best-known mysteries, widely considered her masterpiece and described by her as the most difficult of her books to have written. Writing for The Times Literary Supplement of 11 November 1939, Maurice Percy Ashley stated, "If her latest story has scarcely any detection in it there is no scarcity of murders .. There is a certain feeling of monotony inescapable in the regularity of the deaths which is better suited to a serialized newspaper story than a full-length novel. Yet there is an ingenious problem to solve in naming the murderer. It will be an extremely astute reader who guesses correctly", he continued.
Many other reviews were also complimentary; in The New York Times Book Review (25 February 1940), Isaac Anderson detailed the set-up of the plot up to the point where "the voice" accuses the ten "guests" of their past crimes or sins, which have all resulted in the deaths of other human beings, and then said, "When you read what happens after that you will not believe it, but you will keep on reading, and as one incredible event is followed by another even more incredible you will still keep on reading. The whole thing is utterly impossible and utterly fascinating. It is the most baffling mystery that Agatha Christie has ever written, and if any other writer has ever surpassed it for sheer puzzlement the name escapes our memory. We are referring, of course, to mysteries that have logical explanations, as this one has. It is a tall story, to be sure, but it could have happened."
Such was the quality of Christie's work on this book that many compared it to her 1926 novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. For instance, an unnamed reviewer in the Toronto Daily Star of 16 March 1940 said, "Others have written better mysteries than Agatha Christie, but no one can touch her for ingenious plot and surprise ending. With And Then There Were None ... she is at her most ingenious and most surprising... is, indeed, considerably above the standard of her last few works and close to the Roger Ackroyd level."
Other critics laud the use of plot twists and surprise endings. Maurice Richardson wrote a rhapsodic review in The Observer's issue of 5 November 1939 which began, "No wonder Agatha Christie's latest has sent her publishers into a vatic trance. We will refrain, however, from any invidious comparisons with Roger Ackroyd and be content with saying that Ten Little Niggers is one of the very best, most genuinely bewildering Christies yet written. We will also have to refrain from reviewing it thoroughly, as it is so full of shocks that even the mildest revelation would spoil some surprise from somebody, and I am sure that you would rather have your entertainment kept fresh than criticism pure." After stating the set-up of the plot, Richardson concluded, "Story telling and characterisation are right at the top of Mrs Christie's baleful form. Her plot may be highly artificial, but it is neat, brilliantly cunning, soundly constructed, and free from any of those red-herring false trails which sometimes disfigure her work."
Robert Barnard, a recent critic, concurred with the reviews, describing the book as "Suspenseful and menacing detective-story-cum-thriller. The closed setting with the succession of deaths is here taken to its logical conclusion, and the dangers of ludicrousness and sheer reader-disbelief are skillfully avoided. Probably the best-known Christie, and justifiably among the most popular."
The original name of the mystery (Ten Little Niggers) has long been abandoned as offensive in English-speaking countries and a number of others. Some critics have opined that Christie's original title and the setting on "Nigger Island" (later changed to "Indian Island" and "Soldier Island", variously) are perhaps integral to the work. These aspects of the novel, argues Alison Light, "could be relied upon automatically to conjure up a thrilling 'otherness', a place where revelations about the 'dark side' of the English would be appropriate." Unlike novels such as Heart of Darkness, "Christie's location is both more domesticated and privatised, taking for granted the construction of racial fears woven into psychic life as early as the nursery. If her story suggests how easy it is to play upon such fears, it is also a reminder of how intimately tied they are to sources of pleasure and enjoyment."
And Then There Were None has had more adaptations than any other single work of Agatha Christie. They often used Christie's alternative ending from her 1943 stage play, with the setting often being changed to locations other than an island.
In 1943, Agatha Christie adapted the story for the stage. In the process of doing so, she and the producers agreed that audiences might not flock to such a grim tale and it would not work well dramatically as there would be no one left to tell the tale. Thus, she reworked the ending for Lombard and Vera to be innocent of the crimes of which they were accused, survive, and fall in love with each other. Some of the names were also changed with General Macarthur becoming General McKenzie, most likely due to the same surnamed real-life General Douglas MacArthur playing a prominent role in the ongoing World War II. On 14 October 2005, a new version of the play, written by Kevin Elyot and directed by Steven Pimlott, opened at the Gielgud Theatre in London. For this version, Elyot returned to the original story and restored the original downbeat ending in which Lombard and Vera both die.
Dundee Repertory Theatre Company was given special permission to restore the original ending of the novel. The company first performed a stage adaptation of the novel in 1944 under its original title.
There have been numerous film adaptations of the novel, some adapted or comedic; at present only one of these - a Russian 1987 film - keeps intact Christie's grim storyline and ending. The first cinema adaptation was René Clair's successful 1945 US production in 1945, followed in 1965 by George Pollock's second cinema adaptation; Pollock had previously handled four Miss Marple films starring Margaret Rutherford.
Other significant productions include the first English-language colour version (Peter Collinson, 1974), and the first (and to date only) film adaptation that is faithful to the book and its grim tone and ending – Stanislav Govorukhin's 1987 adaptation Desyat' negrityat (Десять негритят, Eng: "Ten Little Negroes").
Several variations of the original novel were adapted for television. For instance, there were two different British adaptions, the BBC adaption in 1949 and ITV adaptation in 1959. In addition, there was an American version, Ten Little Indians, directed by Paul Bogart, Philip F. Falcone, Leo Farrenkopf and Dan Zampino, with the screenplay by Philip H. Reisman Jr., that was a truncated TV adaptation of the play. A West German adaptation, Zehn kleine Negerlein, was directed by Hans Quest for ZDF in 1969.
In 1970, Pierre Sabbagh directed Dix petits nègres for the French television adaption. In 1974, Jean Fayyad directed the TV series "10 Little Niggars" in Arabic for the National Lebanese Television. The adaptation to television was orchestrated by Latifeh Moultaka. The series was a great success. In 2014, the Lebanese channel MTV Lebanon revived the TV series as "عشرة عبيد صغار" or "Ten Little Servants". In Cuba, the novel was adapted in 1981 in a black and white six parts series starring Yolanda Ruiz, Miguel Navarro and Fernando Robles in the Vera Claythorne, Philip Lombard and Justice Wargrave roles.
The CBS television show Harper's Island was loosely based on the book, however, it is set over 13 weeks, instead of the 1 or 2 in the original, there are 25 characters instead of 10, and there are survivors left at the end.
Mathnet on Square One TV had a story arc, "The Case of the Mystery Weekend", based on this story, with a surprise ending. [clarification needed] In February 2014, the BBC announced it had commissioned a film of the same name based on the novel.
However, there have been several other parodies and variations on the story since, all keeping with the theme of several guests who disappear or are killed off one by one, after being mysteriously invited to a mansion on a rainy night owned by a vengeful host. For instance, Season 7 Episode 5 of USA's show Psych, titled "100 Clues" keeps with this theme when Shawn and Gus are invited by an aging rockstar who they helped incriminate years ago.
On 13 November 2010, as part of its Saturday Play series, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a 90-minute adaptation written by Joy Wilkinson. The production was directed by Mary Peate and featured, among others, Geoffrey Whitehead as Justice Wargrave, Lyndsey Marshal as Vera Claythorne, Alex Wyndham as Philip Lombard, John Rowe as Dr. Armstrong, and Joanna Monro as Emily Brent. In this production, which is extremely faithful to the novel, the rhyme is "Ten Little Soldier Boys".
The Adventure Company released the video game Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None in 2005, the first in a series of PC games based on Christie novels. In February 2008, it was ported to the Wii console. The identity of the murderer is not that of the killer in the original book. The game player assumes the role of Fred Naracott, who is stranded with the others when his boat is scuttled. This allows for alternate, more successful endings in which Naracott survives and is able to prevent the final murders. And Then There Were None was released by HarperCollins as a graphic novel adaptation on 30 April 2009, adapted by François Rivière and illustrated by Frank Leclercq.
Timeline of adaptations
|Film||And Then There Were None||1945||American film and first cinema adaptation. Produced & directed by René Clair.|
|TV||Ten Little Niggers||1949||BBC television production (IMDb)|
|TV||Ten Little Niggers||1959||ITV television production (IMDb)|
|TV||Ten Little Indians||1959||NBC television production (IMDb)|
|Film||Ten Little Indians||1965||British film and second cinema adaptation. Directed by George Pollock and produced by Harry Alan Towers; Pollock had previously handled four Miss Marple films starring Margaret Rutherford. Set in a mountain retreat in Austria.|
|Film (loosely-based)||Gumnaam||1965||Uncredited Hindi film adaptation, which adds the characteristic "Bollywood" elements of comedy, music and dance to Christie's plot.|
|TV||Zehn kleine Negerlein||1969||West German television production (IMDb)|
|Film||5 bambole per la luna d'agosto||1970||Italian film (directed by Mario Bava)|
|Film||And Then There Were None||1974||English language film by Peter Collinson and produced by Harry Alan Towers. First English-language color film version of the novel, based on a screenplay by Towers (writing as "Peter Welbeck"), who co-wrote the screenplay for the 1965 film. Set at a grand hotel in the Iranian desert.|
|TV||Ten Little Niggers (Achra Abid Zghar)||1974||Télé Liban TV series directed by Jean Fayyad, TV Adaptation by Latifeh Moultaka. (Facebook Page)|
|Film (parody)||Murder by Death||1976||outright spoof with a cast of American and British stars|
("Ten Little Negroes")
|1987||Russian film version produced/directed by Stanislav Govorukhin. Currently the only cinema adaptation to keep the novel's original plot and grim ending.|
|Film||Ten Little Indians||1989||British film, produced by Harry Towers and directed by Alan Birkinshaw, set on safari in the African savannah.|
|TV (parody)||"And Then There Was Shawn"||1998||17th episode of the fifth season of Boy Meets World|
|Film (loosely-based)||Storm of the Century||1999||Horror film which shares some literary elements and a similar premise|
|TV (loosely-based)||Harper's Island||2009||13 episode mini-series with the same premise|
|Film (loosely-based)||Identity||2003||Horror film with same starting settings|
|Film (loosely-based)||Mindhunters||2004||Suspense-thriller film with a similar premise|
|Film (loosely-based)||Umineko no Naku Koro Ni
Umineko no Naku Koro Ni Chiru
|2007-2010||A series of Japanese sound novels which borrows the book's premise and sets the reader on a quest to discover the identity behind the crimes, and whether it is human or not.|
|Film (loosely-based)||Devil||2010||film by M. Night Shyamalan adapts this story's basic structure and final plot twist to the confines of an elevator|
|TV (parody)||"And Then There Were Fewer"||2010||first episode of the ninth season of Family Guy, is a comedic version with the similar premise of guests being invited to a large estate, being trapped by a storm, and some are murdered.|
|Film (loosely-based)||Game||2011||Bollywood thriller inspired by the story|
|Film (loosely-based)||Sabotage||2014||an American action thriller/crime drama film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger loosely based on the book.|
|TV||Ten Little Niggers (Achra Abid Zghar)||2014||MTV Lebanon television production (MTV)|
The 1933 K.B.S. Productions Sherlock Holmes film, A Study in Scarlet, predates the publication of Ten Little Indians and follows a strikingly similar plot; it includes a scene where Holmes is shown a card with the hint: "Six little indians ....bee stung one and then there were five"; the film predates the novel by six years. Though it is a Sherlock Holmes movie, the movie bears no resemblance to Arthur Conan Doyle's original story of the same name. In this case, the rhyme refers to "Ten Little Fat Boys". The author of the movie's screenplay, Robert Florey, "doubted that [Christie] had seen A Study in Scarlet, but he regarded it as a compliment if it had helped inspire her".
Several parodies have been made. As early as autumn 1942, "World's Finest Comics" (#7, Fall Issue) had a Superman story by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster called "The Eight Doomed Men" which used Christie's basic structure and even borrowed a number of her victim's backgrounds, although Superman intervened to rescue half of the intended victims and the killer's motivation was changed to specific revenge. Siegel and Shuster anticipated the 1966 film by moving the locale to a mountain cabin and tossed in a Zeppelin-like dirigible – one location not yet used in adaptations of the story. Another parody, the 1976 Broadway musical Something's Afoot, stars Tessie O'Shea as a female sleuth resembling Miss Marple. Something's Afoot takes place in a remote English estate, where six guests have been invited for the weekend. The guests, as well as three servants and a young man who claims to have wandered innocently onto the estate, are then murdered one by one, several in full view of the audience, with the murderer's surprise identity revealed at the end. For an encore, the murdered cast members perform a song, "I Owe It All to Agatha Christie".
In television, the story was spoofed in the 1966 Get Smart episode "Hoo Done It", which featured guest star Joey Forman as "Detective Harry Hoo", a parody of Charlie Chan. An episode of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends titled "7 Little Superheroes" is, being a children's show, a murder-free adaptation of the story. The Remington Steele episode "Steele Trap" and The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. episode "Bounty Hunters Convention" were other television episodes inspired by the story. In the 1967 The Avengers adaption "The Superlative Seven" John Steed is invited to a costume party aboard a chartered aeroplane. The aeroplane is being flown by remote control. Steed and the six other fancy-dressed guests, who are specialists in various combat styles, eventually land on a deserted island where they are informed that one of them is a trained assassin trying to kill them all. When the first murder is committed, Steed observes "Looks as though his back was broken". To which an off-screen protagonist responds, over a speaker, "Quite right, Mr Steed. And then there were six". CSI:Crime Scene Investigation based an episode of the show's second season under the same name focusing on a gang of armed robbers stealing from casinos outside the Las Vegas metropolitan area with each criminal killing a member of the gang to keep more of the proceeds.
- HarderCollins article on their adaptation ISBN 978-0-00-727532-8 (2009)
- "Review of Ten Little Indians". The Observer. 5 November 1939. p. 6.
- Peers, C.; Spurrier, A. & Sturgeon, J. (1999). Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions (2nd ed.). Dragonby Press. p. 15. ISBN 1-871122-13-9.
- Pendergast, Bruce (2004). Everyman's Guide to the Mysteries of Agatha Christie. Victoria, BC: Trafford Publishing. p. 393. ISBN 1-4120-2304-1.
- "American Tribute to Agatha Christie – The Classic Years: 1940–1944". Archived from the original on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 24 November 2008.
- Davies, Helen; Marjorie Dorfman, Mary Fons, Deborah Hawkins, Martin Hintz, Linnea Lundgren, David Priess, Julia Clark Robinson, Paul Seaburn, Heidi Stevens, and Steve Theunissen (14 September 2007). "21 Best-Selling Books of All Time". Editors of Publications International, Ltd. Archived from the original on 7 April 2009. Retrieved 25 March 2009.
- This line is sometimes replaced by One got left behind and then there were seven.
- Note: In some versions the ninth verse reads Two little Soldier boys playing with a gun/One shot the other and then there was One.
- "Ten Little Indians Study Guide". pp. 1–38. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
- Holdings at the British Library (Newspapers – Colindale); Shelfmark NPL LON LD3/NPL LON MLD3.
- Rethinking Schools: Rethinking Agatha Christie, by Sudie Hofmann (undated article)
- British National Bibliography for 1985. British Library (1986); ISBN 0-7123-1035-5
- British National Bibliography British Library. 1986. ISBN 0-7123-1035-5
- Whitaker's Cumulative Book List for 1977. J. Whitaker and Sons Ltd. 1978. ISBN 0-85021-105-0
- ""Zece negri mititei" si "Crima din Orient Express", azi cu "Adevarul"" (in Romanian). Adevarul.ro. 6 January 2010. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
- "Dix petits nègres, nouvelle édition: Livres: Agatha Christie" (in French). Amazon.fr. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
- The Times Literary Supplement, 11 November 1939 (p. 658)
- The New York Times Book Review, 25 February 1940 (p. 15)
- Toronto Daily Star, 16 March 1940 (p. 28)
- Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie – Revised edition (p. 206). Fontana Books, 1990; ISBN 0-00-637474-3
- Light, Alison. Forever England: Femininity, Literature, and Conservatism Between the Wars. Routledge, 1991. (p. 99); ISBN 0-415-01661-4
- Stage production of And Then There Were None at Dundee Rep, nls.uk; accessed 13 March 2014.
- "BBC One to become new home of Agatha Christie in UK". BBC. 28 February 2014. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
- Taves, Brian. Robert Florey, the French Expressionist. New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1987, p. 152; ISBN 0-8108-1929-5
- Taves (1987), p. 153
- The Avengers – The Superlative Seven at the Internet Movie Database
- At 28'38" into the episode (Kult TV DVD KLT21002B).
- And Then There Were None at the official Agatha Christie website
- Spark Notes for novel
- E-book at Archive.org